Naturalising daffodils for daffodil season

By Andy McIndoe

Planting flowerbulbs in grass

Daffodil season will be upon us before we know it.  Daffodils (and narcissi) are often planted in grass; their cheery blooms look wonderful against the backdrop of emerald green in early spring. This is a great way to grow them under trees, and where you can leave the grass to grow until late spring –their foliage needs to be left in place until it dies down naturally to feed the bulbs for the following year’s performance. If you cut it down too early your bulbs may not produce flowers in Daffodil season next year.  The foliage of daffodils (and narcissi) is slow to die back; this is well worth remembering whether you grow them in grass of in beds and borders. Never plant flowerbulbs in the main part of the lawn where you need to keep the grass cut short. It might seem like a good idea but you will soon regret it.

Perhaps I should just clarify the difference between daffodils and narcissi?  Simple – they are all narcissi; Narcissus is the botanical name. The name daffodil is given to a narcissus with a longer trumpet; those with short trumpets or “cups” are usually referred to as narcissi.

When it comes to planting flowerbulbs in grass masses of mixed daffodils and narcissi are sold in bulk every year.  Personally I would never choose them because you need to plant a lot to get the effect.  Plant in small groups and you may be disappointed with the disjointed effect as they all flower at different times.  I think it’s better to buy in single varieties and I prefer to plant in groups of around 7 to 10 bulbs, leaving space between the clumps.  This gives the effect of a colony of flowerbulbs the way they might appear in the wild.

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Naturalising Bulbs


When it comes to planting flowerbulbs or daffodils in grass bulb planters for daffodil season, those you hold or push in with your foot are generally useless unless you have remarkably soft and uncompacted ground.  You will find it much easier to lift a square of turf with a spade. You need to plant the bulbs with around three times the depth of the bulb of soil and turf over them. So dig out the soil beneath the turf to make a flat bottomed hole, space the bulbs with a bulbs space between them to allow them to multiply.  Backfill with the loose soil, replace the turf and form with your foot.  Remember you won’t get all the soil you have removed back in the hole!

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Planting narcissi


The size of narcissus bulbs varies.  Narcissus psuedonarcissus subsp. lobularis, the British native daffodil has tiny bulbs like snowdrops.  These will obviously need to be planted much nearer the surface. They are also best planted as soon as you buy them to avoid drying out, this can be an issue with small bulbs.

In most smaller gardens dwarf daffodils look more graceful and create a more naturalistic effect in the daffodil season.  Varieties of  daffodils such as ‘Jack Snipe’, ‘February Fold’, ‘Peeping Tom’, ‘Little Witch’ and ‘February Gold’ are all excellent and look delightful grouped around the base of trees.  In Kew Gardens, London Narcissus ‘February Gold’ is the favourite; vast drifts of it light up the gardens in early spring.

9. Narcissus 'Thalia' with birchPersonally I am a great fan of the delicate, pure white, multi-headed Narcissus ‘Thalia’. I have it naturalised under birch trees. I also grow it in pots for the patio and then transplant the potfulls of bulbs into rough grass when they have finished flowering.  I like pale and interesting daffodils and narcissi but I don’t like large yellow daffodils in the garden.  I enjoy then in London parks on a bright sunny spring day – for me that’s where they belong.

So what about you?  Which varieties of daffodils and narcissi for naturalising do you grow and love? Which daffodils have you had success with in grass? Do you deadhead your daffs? – I don’t, but I’d love to know if you think it makes a difference!

Recommended Varieties:  February Fold, Peeping Tom, Narcissus Thalia, Little Witch, Jack Snipe, February Gold.

To find out more about spring flowering bulbs, shrubs and lawns check out my on-line gardening courses at and follow @AndyMcIndoe on twitter.


Andy McIndoe

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